by Ricardo Johnson
As leaders, we are always concerned about our churches and ministries – that they will grow and reach people with the message of Jesus. That is our calling, and we should do it well, but through this article I want to bring us into a better focus on taking care of first things first.
I have found that in trying to reach the world, one of the first things that gets neglected is our home front. Leaders, your first congregation or audience is the people that live with you every day. You know, the people that eat with you, sleep with you, laugh with you, cry with you, see you in your pj’s, see you without a Bible in your hands, go on long drives with you, call you daddy, or call you honey – that is your first congregation. How are you doing with winning them to embrace the fullness and character of Christ? You can reach multiple millions with the message of Jesus, but if your home is a wreck I believe in the eyes of God you have truly missed the mark.
There are many articles that focus on the marriage aspect of making sure that your first congregation is spiritually healthy. That is of utmost importance and that should receive the utmost attention, so make sure you also understand that aspect and work to perfect it. I want to go in a different direction with this article, and that’s the aspect of your children whom God almighty has entrusted to you. It’s a great responsibility that I count as an honor to currently be the father of four children. They truly are my first congregation and I love them very much. See, my wife and I are church planters here in LA, that’s Lower Alabama. We have only been up and running for 7 months, but I started to notice something. In my great zeal to grow this church, I felt that something was missing. I would drive around town, meet new people, make more appointments, schedule outreaches to the community, write letters to people who have helped us, be in prayer and Bible study for long periods of time, be out long hours during the day… all in a drive to grow this congregation. I have a wife that backs me; she is 100% behind what I am doing and is the greatest help meet a man could ever have. The Lord started to show me what I was missing, and He told me in my heart in no uncertain terms that, “You need to make sure that your first congregation is healthy and strong just as much as you go after your second congregation to build them up.” In other words, He was saying to me with the same tenacity that I go after the people in lower Alabama, I need to go after teaching and training up my first congregation, my children, the ones who live with me daily! They are at young ages where their thoughts about life are being formed and they need to see me as a father lead them spiritually in the home. Wow! When we have statistics like this from a survey of pastor’s children: 80% of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression (Maranathalife.com), then there is a problem!